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Review: Langhorne Slim – When the Sun’s Gone Down

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By: Paul Dobry

Langhorne Slim: When the Sun’s Gone Down
Narnack Records (2005)

The best may be to come, but in the meantime get out of your rocker and dance.

In my experience, falling in love with a record can happen two ways. The first is if the record scratches a particular itch, something you may have not known was there until it was relieved. For example I never knew that I had been looking for the blend of Simon & Garfunkel with Donovan, infused with childhood daydreaming ala Le Petit Prince that I found when I first heard Belle & Sebastian. The second is to be completely blind sided by something you never knew could exist. Think back to the first time you heard Björk.

As with any Venn diagram, however, there exists that rare overlapping of circles. Tom Waits remains the best example, to date, of this mysterious duality. The awe of discovery, mixed with the feeling of coming home. I was born late enough that I could ration myself a fresh Waits album whenever I saw fit, and was ready for my next dose. I may have to be a bit more patient with Langhorne Slim. When the Sun’s Gone Down is the Pennsylvanian-cum-Brooklynite’s first label supported full length. I’m already prepared to compare it to Closing Time. The promise of this record intimates the possibility of Rain Dogs-esque, melt your grey matter work somewhere in the distance.

I became aware of Slim with his self released mish mash Slim Picken’s and was already chomping at the bit when Narnack Records brought him on board for The Electric Loveletter EP. On the first two releases Slim picks and strums anxious American roots, frenzied to rush old storytelling styles through the decades and back in people’s consciousness. He seems satisfied enough with this crash course (given as much for himself as anyone else) to slow it down a bit and get to playing songs. The sound is fuller and richer, with perfectly placed instrumentation. While earlier tracks had no sense of depth. Straying from just a voice and guitar meant maybe adding a harmonica. When the Sun’s Gone Down, however can balance a broader ensemble. Even with vox, guitar, slide guitar and drums a track like “I Ain’t Proud” is subtle and restrained. And a reworking of the EP’s “I Will” and album closer “I Love to Dance” are raucous and bombastic, without just tacking on instruments in the background.

While the approach is more thoughtful and tactfully executed Slim can not escape the sound of a frenzied love-stricken blues man. And this is the real beauty of the record. Slim’s voice provides the desperate strained, guttural howl to invoke 30’s era born-under-a-bad-sign bluesmen. While an unabashed joy; that rises from his dusty brown boots, though every fiber of his ill-fitting three-piece suit and out the top of his pork pie hat, makes you get on your feet and grab that sweet lil’ mama you’ve been eyeing all night and dance until she breaks her curfew.

Edit: BMcK

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